Last updated on July 19, 2017
Snap. Crackle. Pop. The familiar sound I like hearing in my cereal bowl but not emitting from my dog’s leg. If you follow Fidose of Reality, you might recall that our PR (Puppy Relations) Manager, Dexter, tore his ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in 2013. We tried everything from the conservative management perspective including rest, ice, heat, cold laser therapy, customized stifle brace, and more rest. Eventually that partial ACL tear became a full tear. In August of 2013, Dexter had extracapsular surgery to repair his torn ACL along with removal of a damaged meniscus. If you missed the saga and landed here because your dog has been diagnosed with an ACL tear, you can catch up by clicking here: DOG ACL TEAR
Here we go again. In all of the research I have done with regards to the anatomy of a dog’s knee, some veterinary reports reveal that dogs that rupture one cruciate ligament have about a 40 to 60 percent chance of rupturing the other.
Dogs and Knees
A normal knee joint acts like a hinge. The knee is kept stable when it flexes and extends due to this hinge. When the ACL (or CCL) tears, the knee joint loses its stability and starts functioning in a less than optimal way. In other words, it does not perform as it should.
Imagine a rubber band holding two items together and that rubber band partially or fully tears. That “rubber band” is the anterior cruciate ligament. Dogs can recover as scar tissue fills in the gap of the tear with time, but many dogs go on to a full tear.
Outcomes of Torn ACLs
Degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis will occur along with pain, instability, and an overall change of life’s quality for the dog. I know several folks who managed well with conservative management on a smaller dog (20 pounds or less) that had a torn ACL.
Conservative Management or Surgery: And When?
There is a longly contested debate whether surgery is actually needed in all cases of a torn ACL. In my experience, most dogs progress to a full tear and then surgery is a must. Each dog should be assessed for the nature and extent of injury. I am also a proponent of joint supplements and weight management to keep stress off the joints. Most veterinarians would agree.
A recent article I encountered on Veterinary Practice News covers 10 possible consequences of an ACL rupture treated conservatively. I highly advise you check this out if your dog has an ACL or develops one at some point in his or her life.
Who Gets a Torn ACL?
Dogs can tear an ACL from being overweight or from a chronic standpoint: It develops over time. There are many dogs (present company included) that develop a sudden or acute rupture/tear of the anterior (or cranial) cruciate ligament. My dog is a jumper and he lept up to catch a squeaky ball like this:
Snap, crackle, pop ensued. Sometimes just a staggered gait or a limp is noticed. The limp might be constant or intermittent. Each dog varies. Dogs can even tear this ligament by jumping out of a car or stepping off a curb, as happened to a friend’s dog.
Where Can You Learn How to Help Your Dog
If you want to work in tandem with your dog’s veterinarian to help keep your dog’s joints healthy as well as keeping Fido in shape overall, one of the resources we use is the Partners for Healthy Pets website. You might think you notice every little thing your dog does – but did you know that dogs (and cats) have evolved to hide illness?
Our dog, Dexter, even tried to play ball by hopping around with the injured leg in the air. Dogs can’t tell us something hurts, so it is up to us, as pet parents, to know what is normal behavior and what is not.
Our friends at Partners for Healthy Pets tell us that since 2001, dog vet visits have dropped 21% and cat vet visits have dropped 30%. As a result, there is dramatic increase in preventable diseases in our pets, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Obesity leads to joint issues and can damage joints and cause ruptured ACLs.
One of the startling images we found on the PHP website is this one, which details calories in snacks:
What We Recommend
If your dog suddenly develops a lameness or a limp, seek veterinary attention. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or “let it go.” As a dog mom or dog dad, we owe it to our best friends to seek medical help, especially consider dogs (and cats) will hide pain from us.
Our pet blogging friend, Jodi Chick, has a dog who is being treated with conservative management. You can read all about that course of action on her Kol’s Notes blog here.
We also recommend the surgeon you choose is board certified, which is what this ortho specialist is who did Dexter’s surgery.
Our Road to Recovery
Now that the ACL surgery is over, we are 4 days postop as of this writing. Dexter is facing the same postoperative course of action he did last time. Dogs in this situation will have a customized rehab plan tailored to their injury, surgery, and needs.
This is not an inexpensive operation. Our low end quote for the surgery was $2,100 and high end was $2,500; this is based on my dog’s size and needs plus the type of surgery. There are a few types of ACL surgeries, and we opted for extracapsular repair both times with very good reason. You can read more about that here: Surgical Choices for Torn ACL in Dogs.
We have veterinary pet health insurance and have for about 20 years. We love it, have had major success with it, and it covers a huge part of this surgery’s cost. I would do anything I needed to for my dog, but the insurance really helps.
We are keeping our dog active in a variety of ways since he is on strict rest these first two weeks. A recovering dog need not be a bored dog, and here are activities you can do with a postoperative dog.
Have you ever faced surgery with your dog(s)? Let us know what types of surgeries your dog(s) has been through in the comments below.